: :inin Kyiv (EET)

Russia`s FSB said to have set sights on paintings stolen from Italy, found in Ukraine


Russia`s FSB Federal Security Service has been developing its own operation to track down 17 precious paintings stolen from a museum in Verona, Italy, and recently recovered in Ukraine, according to the Ukrainian State Border Service.
”During the investigation, the border guards have learnt that the search for the paintings was also in the sphere of the Russian FSB`s interests, and the thieves were taken by the Russian side under control. What is more, the FSB planned its own operation to relocate the pictures to Russian-controlled Transdniestria [a partially recognized state located on the eastern Moldovan border with Ukraine],” the Ukrainian agency said.
Having identified members of the criminal group and the way they had transported the paintings, including works by Tintoretto, Rubens and Mantegna, the Ukrainian border guards, investigators and military prosecutors found a cache storing the stolen art on Turunchuk Island on the Dniester River in Odesa region`s Biliayivsky district between Ukraine and Moldova, the service`s press service reported.
The Ukrainian law enforcers worked closely with their Moldovan counterparts to identify the thieves and track down the paintings. The criminal group included citizens of Ukraine, Moldova and Russia. The investigators found that the works of art had been mailed to Odesa region from Moldova for further sale in Ukraine and Russia.
As part of the investigation, the Ukrainian military prosecutors plan to invite Italian experts and officials in to authenticate the paintings and formalize their handover.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has already hailed the Ukrainian investigators` work as a ”brilliant operation” and said it had demonstrated Ukraine`s efficient fight against art smuggling.
The presidential press service reported that the paintings were seized on May 6 and tests conducted on May 7 confirmed that these are the original works of art.
The paintings worth from EUR 15 million to EUR 20 million were stolen from Verona`s Castelvecchio museum last November.
In March, the Italian authorities announced the arrest of 13 suspects in the case in Italy and the ex-Soviet nation of Moldova.
Director of the Ukrainian State Tax Service`s investigation department Petro Tsyhykal reported that the paintings search operation conducted by the Italian police was dubbed ”Twins,” as twin brothers were involved in the theft. One of them worked as a museum guard. The criminals acted out an attack on the museum`s guards and stole the paintings, which were allegedly ordered by a private art collector from a Russian region, most probably, the Chechen Republic.

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